Well, I feel like I failed right now. I was just on a panel about self-objectification and geek girls, which I am competent to talk about in a cultural way. Unfortunately it was taken in a direction that was All About Cosplay At Cons, which I am not so knowledgeable about, and apparently I am the only one who thinks LESS objectification OVERALL would be better than ONLY having people who aren't thin-white-pretty-abled-etc. claim their ability to feel sexy by wearing revealing stuff in public. I think that can be great! I also think it can be problematic, for cultural reasons that the panel's source material addresses but our discussion kept veering away from.
And maybe I should be sorry, but I'm not: I do think individuals have a responsibility for the messages they're sending to others in public, regardless of how they personally feel about the outfit. (See "In Defense of Slave Leia"
-- which I like a lot, I just disagree with the conclusion. Not every woman gets empowered.
) The personal is political. I didn't expect to be alone in saying that at Wiscon.
So (1) the panel went wrong for me to begin with; the mod kept asking questions based solely in cosplay and cons, so we never really got to my material. (While I am annoyed with the result, it was a legitimate interpretation of the panel; I just wish we'd talked in advance so we could have modulated based on everyone's input.)
(2) We were missing a panelist due to injury. We got a substitute toward the end, and I really wish she'd been there all along! Up until then we had nobody who cosplays regularly, nobody familiar with the community, which it sounds like can be really great and supportive.
(3) I undoubtedly came off more extreme than I felt because it seemed like no one was hearing the cultural stuff I was trying to convey. THERE ARE CULTURAL FORCES, PEOPLE. Sometimes you want to dress up sexy because you're told to want that. No one is immune! Kids and babies are incredibly adept at picking up language and cultural cues, and social animals like us have evolved to be excellent at conforming because conformers don't get killed by their social groups. What I actually think is: when we know what our environmental factors are, we (yay humans!) can consciously choose to conform or not, and there are powerful choices to be made on both sides.
I wanted to talk about the Science Cheerleaders, man. And fucking Team Unicorn. Clearly cosplay is a huge topic that everyone wants to discuss, though. We didn't get to a quarter of the audience questions. Maybe I'll attend that panel next year (to hear what a jerk I was?). Hopefully I can be on one eventually that talks about the broader geek culture in a way that's more interesting to me.